Plastic ban kicks off in Mumbai, but penalties put off till June 25

Multinational eateries, schools fined; vendors hit as goods are seized.

Updated - December 01, 2021 05:57 am IST

Published - June 23, 2018 10:46 pm IST - Mumbai

 A broken doll, which floated back to the Mahim beach along with other garbage, symbolises the scourge of pollution due to plastic. Many Mumbaikars on June 23, 2018 took a formal oath to fight the the plastic menace.

A broken doll, which floated back to the Mahim beach along with other garbage, symbolises the scourge of pollution due to plastic. Many Mumbaikars on June 23, 2018 took a formal oath to fight the the plastic menace.

The country’s commercial capital on Saturday became the first major city to embrace a tough plastic-free regime, even as the rains made the transition from the ubiquitous polythene carry-bag a tricky affair.

The municipal authorities, meanwhile, decided to defer penal action against users and small traders till Monday, and said the weekend would be used to generate awareness.

However, not everyone got off lightly. Some big eateries in the tony suburb of Bandra, including a Starbucks and McDonald’s outlet, faced action for plastic articles found on their premises. A senior official said three such outlets were fined ₹5,000 each, while the fast-food outlet would face further proceedings as it refused to pay up. In the neighbouring districts of Thane and Navi Mumbai, the official machinery kicked off the drive in earnest — 100 people were fined ₹95,000 for violations in Thane, while ₹35,000 was collected in fines at Navi Mumbai and plastic goods seized. The Panvel City Municipal Corporation even penalised the Kharghar-based DAV School’s canteen for using plastic spoons and glasses.

 

“The highest number of violations were found around the main markets and railway station. A lot of vegetable vendors and hawkers were let off with warnings as it was only the first day of the ban,” Thane Municipal Corporation spokesperson Sandeep Malvi said.

The State government had notified the ban on the manufacture, sale and use of all plastic carry bags as well as the use of disposable plastic goods such as cutlery, containers and straws. Friday was the deadline for people to dispose of the banned items in their possession. Violations will attract a fine of ₹5000.

Commercial establishments, big or small, began to feel the plastic-less pinch on Saturday as vegetable and fruit vendors, meat and fish markets, streetside eateries and juice centers and tea stalls across the city had to turn away customers in the absence of plastic carry bags that they usually relied on. Restaurants and food chain outlets, too, registered losses as they stopped take-away services due to the ban.

Ground Zero woes

Vidya Shetye, a fruit-juice seller on Grant Road was one of them. “Customers often ask for parcels, I used to pack the juice in a small plastic bag but now I can find no alternative,” she said.

 

Many retailers, who could afford to do so, bought cloth bags which they sold to customers who did not have any carry bags of their own. But incessant rains through the day made this alternative difficult.

Not surprisingly, sellers of alternative material like jute and cloth bags have made a killing, as everyone from retailers to citizens flocked to their stores. “My sales have gone up by 3,000% thanks to this plastic ban since the March notification,” said Kapil Bhansal, owner of a jute and cloth bags shop in Dadar said.

A buyback policy is still being worked out to allow the use of PET bottles for water and other drinks, “The policy is a little complex as various factors need to be considered. The cost involved in segregation, logistics and recycling will have to be factored into the buyback scheme,” said a senior official.

Officials in the Railways, which is Mumbai’s lifeline, realised that they do not have the power to penalise passengers on railway premises. The Railways Act, which is regulates activities at train stations and on board trains, does not have a provision to punitive action for carrying banned plastic products.

“We have sought permission from the State authorities to charge a fine. We are yet to get a directive on this,” said a senior railway official. Officials also said there is ambiguity on whether one can penalise passengers coming from other States where there is no such ban on plastic.

Around 249 inspectors appointed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) were divided into 23 teams, that visited various market to ensure that everyone is aware about all the aspects of the ban.

“The inspectors will interact with shopkeepers, retailers, transporters and consumers in their respective jurisdiction and make them aware about the rules of the ban, as well as the penal action in case of violations. We will commence penal action only from Monday,” Assistant Municipal Commissioner Kiran Dighavkar, BMC said.

Polythene politics

Meanwhile, Maharashtra’s Environment Minister said there was no pressure from the Gujarat government or the plastic lobby in the neighbouring State against the move. The Shiv Sena leader said it was true 80% of the plastic coming into Maharashtra came from but no instruction has been given to him by either the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to go slow.

“If we find anyone bringing in plastic from Gujarat or smuggling it against our new law, action will be taken against them and they will be thrown into jail for three months,” Mr Kadam said.

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